Taylor Swift, Could You Please Calm Down?

Dear Taylor,

Welcome back to pop music’s center stage! In 2019, you’ve burst onto the scene, dropping new music, setting up a new host of Easter egg clues, and letting us all see how carefully you’ve constructed a season of unashamedly using your platform and music to share a message. Some of the Swifties are calling it “TS7”, as we’ve all sensed it’s an era worth marking.

You should know that I’ve been here since the guitar-playing, sundress-wearing and concert hair-flipping days, cheering you on from a distance and eagerly soaking up each new sound and style you’ve shared through your albums. It’s been fun to see how much your music has grown and changed over the years, and I’ve found myself totally willing to let each album carry me into a new place, learning to appreciate a new sound, a new genre, a new Taylor!

So, after having your first single from the new album stuck in my head since its release in late-April, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the next track and scouring the Internet for any clues about your upcoming music that I might’ve missed. Just before the weekend, we finally got another peek into your new album through the release of the song “You Need to Calm Down”.

From the lyrical references to the LGBTQ media organization, GLAAD, the line about how “throwing shade” has never made anyone less gay, and the snide comment about people staying up all night to make signs (presumably for protests), it was clear to me right away that this song is a nod to your LGBTQ “friends” (as you call them in the top of the second verse).

But the obviously pro-LGBTQ lyrics didn’t surprise me much. It was the video, dropping three days after the track was released, that really threw me for a loop. After joining the hundreds of thousands who pressed “play” within the first hours after its release, I found myself re-watching it several times, trying to make sure I saw everything right.

The bright, colorful rainbow palette, as well as the wedding ceremony between two men and drag queen competition affirmed what we all were thinking—this song was built to be a pride anthem. But what caught me off guard . . . the thing I had trouble swallowing, was the not-so-subtle jabs at Christians.

 

Screenshot taken from Official Music Video

 

About a minute and a half into the video, I got my first glimpse of the protestors. They’re mostly wearing plaid, the men have long beards, and some are sporting American flag clothing and cowboy hats—perfectly fulfilling the stereotype of an ignorant, unsophisticated hillbilly. Initially, I assumed this was a dig against the heartless and unkind sort of people that I, too, find myself wishing wouldn’t be so vocal.

As I got a closer look though, I saw that the toothless protestors in your video were brandishing signs that read “Homasekualty is a sin” (surely misspelled with intention), “HELL” in fiery flames, and “Adam and Eve NOT Adam and Steve”.

Screenshot taken from Official Music Video

Screenshot taken from Official Music Video

 

The biblical references registered in my mind, and it dawned on me what was happening here—or rather, who was being stereotyped. It was me. My faith. You were characterizing Christians to be hateful and mean, people who should be written off as unintelligent. After an initial wave of the offensive, my next emotion was just sadness as  I realized this video would go viral, reaching tens of millions with a message about Christians that was so misconstrued.

Most of me hopes that this was unintentional, that it was not a deliberate attempt to interweave my faith with a stupid, harsh, and un-loving narrative. But you misspelled words and made references to the dark ages, implying that anyone opposing homosexuality is simple-minded. And maybe you don’t know this, but the worst part is that in doing so, you solidified a stereotype that genuinely loving Christians have to diligently work against every  time we want to engage with anyone about topics as sensitive as this.

I’m a Christian who doesn’t hate gays, but you’ve successfully perpetuated the narrative that there isn’t space for me in today’s culture.

I hope you’ll give me a chance to clarify . . . to invite you into understanding what Christians really are like—or at least who we should be like.

 

It’s not our self-expression you’re tryna mess with.

You might wonder why Christians would care so much about how other people are living their lives—why we don’t keep our offensive “self-expression” to ourselves. It’s because it just isn’t that simple. Because it actually isn’t about me. And it’s not just about you, or your friends. Or what any of us want or think is best. It’s actually about God.

This life isn’t about self-expression. It’s all about living to honor God’s expression of creating us in His own image. And as His image-bearers, when we love Him and conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, we find hope, joy, love, and peace.

 

We’re already trying to restore the peace.

In light of this, I had a particularly difficult time with the line in your song that directs the protestors to take a seat and try to restore the peace.

From the song, it’s obvious that this petition for “peace” is actually a desire for those with opposition to sit down and stop vocalizing it. Christians though, have a different idea of peace. Peace involves wholeness—not just staying silent. True peace is about being complete. And not just as individuals, but as a people, wholly restored to a relationship with our Creator.

I wish that we could both agree to pursue this kind of peace. That you would recognize that when Christians long for peace to be restored, it’s a big-picture, whole-world kind of hope. That it’s hope for the restoration of heaven and earth—for an entire world to be fully free from mourning, crying and pain (Revelation 21:4). This is real peace, real wholeness. And this, is what we long for.

 

It’s not about screaming at all the people we hate.

This was probably the hardest part for me to hear and see. It’s hard because I get it. We’ve probably cringed at the same news stories where people who call themselves Christians yell and shout and spew hateful slurs in protest. There is a lot of pain and offense that is undue, inappropriate, and uncalled for. But this is not what Christianity is supposed to look like.

Christians aren’t out to scream and spew hate towards those who don’t live like we believe God has instructed. Our faith isn’t about attacking the way a certain group of people live. Rather, we want to help all of mankind see how sinful and broken our nature is. How each and every one of us at our core is selfish and sinful. How desperately we need God’s grace so our relationship with Him can be restored and we can begin to understand that our very purpose is to live to honor Him.

I’ll be the first to admit that Christians need to ask God to help us truly love people in the process, because it can get messy. But I hope this letter has come across as loving. I hope you see that I appreciate and respect your work, but that you’ve gotten something wrong in this video. I hope you recognize how you’ve exacerbated an un-true and hurtful narrative about Christians being hateful.

My greatest hope though—for you, your friends, and for all of us—is that we do calm down. That we would put our own thoughts, desires and tendencies in subjection to God’s direction. And instead of living as if we all have our own crowns like you sing, that we’d live in pursuit of the ultimate crown—the crown of eternal life that we are promised if we persevere and love God.

4 replies
  1. Marie Claire
    Marie Claire says:

    Totally right, something wrong with the video,May God help them and also help us to pursue the true peace and the only crown of righteousness found in Jesus Christ!

    Reply
  2. Brian
    Brian says:

    There are certainly plenty of colorful characters in Taylor’s new video. I hope their pride (the deadliest of the sins) does not prevent them from turning away from sin and seeking the forgiveness of our Lord.

    Reply
  3. Beth Nyhart says:

    I had a hard time stomaching this video too. As a Christian who loves friends and family that are gay, I walk that line of showing love to people I disagree with on important issues. And Taylor Swift saying all the work and thought I put into that is the same as a hillbilly holding a hate sign? That hurts.

    Reply
  4. Regian
    Regian says:

    As a Christian myself, the depictions of the protestants didn’t really bother me, as it was indeed how people were like towards the lgbtq+ community, eventhough it is probably exaggerated but it is still true. The misspelling of homosexuality shows how some were just really quick to say no, perhaps reference to some of the older protests where hard-core “Christians” were quick to put lgbtq+ people down. I also do know that being a Christian means not being quick to judge and to be accepting and welcoming to everyone, for we ourselves are sinners. However the thing is that not everyone is there yet, there are still people just blindly protesting against lgbtq+ people, not willing to reflect about how contradicting their actions as a “Christian” is. Taylor just wants everyone to calm down, perhaps sit down and talk. Eventhough some churches are starting to say they are opening up to the lgbtq+ community, they do not always mean it, so we should take a hint, that although we aren’t the same as the older generations, there are still areas where we need to calm down in. The whole video was an exaggeration, even the lgbtq+ was quite a stereotypical portrayal, so seeing how this was interpreted, we really just need to calm down and think of why she portrayed us that way as well. It is an exaggerated video, but perhaps there are some truths for us to learn from.

    Reply

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